New doco shows Siouxsie Wiles bursting into tears of relief watching COVID-19 alert level four announcement

A new documentary about microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has shown the stress, tears, handwashing and endless phone calls that took place in the science communicator's family home in the days leading up to New Zealand's COVID-19 alert level four lockdown. 

Filmmaker Gwen Isaac's Loading Docs short film Siouxsie & the Virus follows Wiles in her attempt to "convince an entire nation to lockdown" as the documentary's blurb on the Loading Docs website puts it. 

The nearly nine-minute short was filmed in March this year offers "a unique insight into one woman’s countdown to a defining moment in New Zealand history".

As the number of coronavirus cases began to rise in Aotearoa, Wiles told Isaac she felt an "increasing sense of panic" as the filmmaker documented her speaking to a seemingly endless number of media outlets and juggling two cell phones which both rang non-stop. 

A particularly emotional moment came when Wiles stood still for a rare moment to watch the now-historic announcement of the country's move to COVID-19 alert level four, which took place on the evening of March 25 this year. 

Wiles gasped and burst into tears of relief on hearing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to escalate to alert level 3, and then to 4 after 48 hours. 

"Oh my God, I'm so grateful for it," she said through tears. 

Writing for The Spinoff, Isaac said she "felt lucky to be with Siouxie as the world changed forever, and privileged to be in the presence of such an adept science communicator". 

The director and producer spent four days in the Wiles household, where - with no other crew allowed - she filmed, directed and took up the role of sound operator all by herself. 

Isaac also captured the way in which Wiles' public-facing role had opened her up to scrutiny, including one occasion when her family gathered around the computer to read an email criticising her bright pink hair colour. 

"I don't look like somebody who is supposed to be leading," Wiles told Isaac in an on-camera interview.

"Authority and expertise can look like something else, and sometimes it's pink, which is distressing for some people, it seems." 

In Isaac's Spinoff article she wrote that she hoped her short film would encourage others with expertise to "step up and make positive changes, even if they didn't fit the mould of a traditional leader". 

"I was meant to be going to Japan this year to film a short documentary following a young Māori mixed martial artist preparing for a career-defining fight in Tokyo. COVID put a stop to that," Isaac wrote. 

"But perhaps Siouxsie’s story isn't all that different from a cage fight - only instead of using physical force, she overcomes her opponents using science and kindness." 

Siouxsie & the Virus is part of the Loading Docs 2020 collection.